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Food insecurity, homeopathic labelling, and backlash over emergency department closures in this week’s top Canadian health news.

Health News Recap

  • More than 1 in 10 Canadian households experienced food insecurity in 2017-18, Statistics Canada reported. People living in Nunavut suffered the highest rates, with 57% experiencing some level of food insecurity, and 23.7% experiencing severe insecurity.
  • Health Canada faced criticism over labelling rules for unproven homeopathic products, which allow products to be labelled “for” certain ailments. According to the government, this doesn’t count as a health claim, but some consumers mistake such labels to mean the product treats those ailments.
  • Alberta unilaterally ended its master agreement with doctors after failing to negotiate a new contract. The provincial government says it will implement the terms of its final offer, including controversial changes to fees for appointments longer than 15 minutes, starting in April.
  • Vaping rates among teens doubled in Ontario in the past two years from 11% to 23%, according to a survey of 14,142 students in grades 7 to 12. The survey also found that vaping was more common among older students, with around 35% of students in Grade 12 reporting that they vaped in the last year.
  • The first person confirmed to have COVID-19 in British Columbia has fully recovered and is no longer required to stay in isolation. Three other confirmed cases are no longer showing symptoms. Provincial health officials also reported a fifth and sixth case; notably, the latest patient had recently travelled in Iran, not China or neighboring countries that have seen the bulk of COVID-19 cases.
  • Doctors in Alberta warned that wait times for publicly funded MRI and CT scans are putting patients at risk and are urging some to pay up to $800 for private scans. In Edmonton, the average wait for an MRI at the University of Alberta Hospital is now 375 days, while the wait for a CT exam at the Leduc Community hospital is 275 days.
  • Nova Scotia is shutting down the MyHealthNS portal, which allowed patients to view routine test results and contact their doctors online. The portal cost the province $12.2 million to create, but uptake was low among doctors, who complained that it wasn’t user-friendly for patients with complex conditions and resulted in additional unpaid work.
  • New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government reversed plans to close the emergency departments at six community hospitals during the night after facing public backlash. The province’s deputy premier quit the party to protest the reforms, leaving the minority government tied for seats with the Liberal opposition and facing the possibility of a confidence vote or early election.
  • Health PEI says patients miss 30-40% of appointments for mental health services, and the authority is working on ways to provide reminders and services at home and online. Nunavut is also investigating why about 1 in 10 medical flights are not taken. Studies show patients often have good reasons for missing appointments, and their ability to attend may be out of their control.
  • Saskatchewan awarded a contracted to Mayfair Diagnostics to deliver publicly-funded MRI services in Saskatoon and Regina. The province has increased MRI capacity 11% in the last three years, but demand has increased by 28%.

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